Limnanthes douglasii

One of the most charming of all cottage plants, this hardy annual came to us from North America, where it is known as meadow foam, in 1833. Delicately scented and beloved by bees, it was widely grown by Victorian country-women in their special ‘bee gardens’.

Limnanthes is a dwarf plant with flowers like primroses, but white with yellow centres (it is sometimes called poached-egg flower), and fresh green, pinnate, almost fernlike, leaves. It flowers in late spring and seeds in perpetuity, so long as you leave the plants for several weeks after flowering for the seeds to ripen and scatter. Any soil will suit it. It looks well in the front of a sunny or lightly shaded border with foliage plants behind.

Limnanthes is one of my favourite flowers, but my pleasure is slightly tempered by guilt when I think of its unhappy discoverer, the lonely Scotsman, David Douglas, who collected many plants, especially conifers, in the wilds of western North America in the early nineteenth century. Douglas was not a joyous collector, but was always in difficulties, losing his seeds in flooding rivers, nearly dying of starvation, or being attacked by hostile Indians, and at the early age of thirty-five he was killed by falling into a wild bullpit in Hawaii. But at least his name will always be associated with a plant which is as exquisite to look at as it is easy to grow.

Many magnolias are slow to reach flowering age. Magnolia slellala.

Which grows lo about 12 feet (3.6m), is an outstanding deciduous species that is slow-growing but flowers when young, and will tolerate lime.

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